MS Dhoni, Faf du Plessis, Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina, and Dwayne Smith all know what it takes to win an IPL and those players have been crucial in Chennai’s road to the final.
Ahead of the title decider against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday, we look at the form of those players so far this season.
MATCHES: 15, RUNS: 455, STRIKE-RATE: 150.66
Aged 36, the captain is proving that age is just a number with the wicket-keeper/batsman enjoying one of his best IPL seasons ever. His highest score is an unbeaten 79 with three-half centuries to his name, while his innings in their chases against Bangalore (70no off 34) and Delhi (51no off 22) left everyone in awe around the world. Has also shown again why he is one of the best skippers with his captaincy decisions.
FAF DU PLESSIS
MATCHES: 5, RUNS: 152, STRIKE-RATE: 128.81
The South African has found his chances limited this season with just five appearances but if it wasn’t for him him, Chennai wouldn’t be in with a chance of winning their third title. He paid back the owners’ decision to retain him in style with a sensational match-winning knock against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Qualifier. Chennai were struggling at 92-7 in their chase of 140 but the batsman showed great bravery to deny Sunrisers’ strong bowling attack as hit the winning six with five balls to spare and remained unbeaten on 67.
MATCHES: 14, RUNS: 413, STRIKE-RATE: 132.37
The 31-year-old hasn’t had much opportunities to bowl considering the team’s strength in the bowling department but he has shown up with the bat when called upon. The Indian batsman is his team’s fourth highest run-scorer with four half-centuries and his 61no against Delhi, proves he can even stand tall even when the other batsmen have their bad days.
Thats all from Pune folks. @ChennaiIPL win the game against @lionsdenkxip in comprehensive fashion by 5 wickets. Super show with the bat from @ImRaina & the finishing touches added by skipper @msdhoni #VIVOIPL #CSKvKXIP pic.twitter.com/Mqf3hOZCtZ— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) May 20, 2018
MATCHES: 15, WICKETS: 10, ECONOMY: 9.28
An ever-present in the team this season, Jadeja isn’t his team’s highest wicket-taker with that honour going to Shardul Thakur (15) but the Indian international has certainly shown that batsman can struggle with his spin. In seven of his last matches, the 29-year-old has picked up a wicket each with 3-18 his best figures so far.
MATCHES: 15, WICKETS: 13, RUNS: 141
You have to go back to the very first match of the season when Chennai took on Mumbai for one of Bravo’s best innings with the bat. Chasing 166, Chennai were in deep double but the West Indian took matters in his own hands hitting an 30-ball 68 to see his team snatch a thriller.
Since then, opportunities have been hard to come by with the bat but Bravo continues to impress with the ball and comes into the final having taken two wickets in his last two matches.
After nearly two months of high-octane T20 cricket, the IPL is preparing for its final act with the title showdown between Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad set to take place in Mumbai on Sunday.
The two teams finished on top of the eight-team pile at the end of the preliminary round and their paths will cross again for the fourth time this year when they meet at the Wankhede Stadium.
As the two teams get ready for the final, we take a look at three key battles which could decide the outcome of the match.
MS DHONI V KANE WILLIAMSON
Sunday’s clash between Chennai and Hyderabad will not just be a match-up between two highly talented teams but also two equally inspirations skippers.
With this being his eighth IPL final in 11 years, MS Dhoni’s tactical acumen in the IPL has never been in doubt. On his part, Kane Williamson has also given a terrific account of his leadership skills in his maiden IPL captaincy stint following the absence of David Warner.
Apart from some astute captaincy, the Blackcaps skipper has led from the front with the bat. Williamson, holder of the Orange Cap, has scored 688 runs so far this season at an average of 52.92 and a strike-rate of 143.33.
Dhoni has not been far behind when it comes to leading by example either. The 36-year-old has gathered 455 runs at a staggering average of 75.83 and a strike-rate of over 150.
How the two captains fare with both bat and mind on Sunday will have a huge bearing on the outcome.
RASHID KHAN V AMBATI RAYUDU
Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan has all but cemented his status as the best bowler in the T20 format. The 19-year-old has picked up 21 wickets at an economy rate of below seven runs an over.
More than his tally of wickets, it is Rashid’s ability to strike whenever his skipper needs him that has been praiseworthy. Rashid is well and truly in teh zone, possessing the confidence and ability to change the complexion of the game in the blink of an eye.
On the other hand, Ambati Rayudu has had a season to remember himself. The Chennai Super Kings batsman is the fourth-highest run-getter this season with 584 runs at an average of 41.85.
With just one run scored in his last two innings, Rayudu is due a big one on Sunday. If he can get off to a start, Rashid might be called into action early to contain him.
Always felt @rashidkhan_19 was a good spinner but now I wouldn’t hesitate in saying he is the best spinner in the world in this format. Mind you, he’s got some batting skills as well. Great guy.— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) May 25, 2018
LUNGI NGIDI V SHIKHAR DHAWAN
Apart from Williamson’s contributions, Shikhar Dhawan’s runs at the top have been equally crucial for the Sunrisers. The left-handed opener started the tournament on fire with knocks of 90 and 45 but then went off the boil.
He has found his groove again with three half-centuries in his last six matches. Lucky for the Sunrisers as they are very much dependent on Williamson and Dhawan when it comes to batting.
How Dhawan fares against South African pacer Lungi Ngidi will be key on Sunday. The 22-year-old missed a big part of the tournament due to the death of his father but he has shown why Chennai so desperately wanted his services.
The pacer has bowled with fire and venom in the six matches he has played so far and has already picked up 10 wickets in just six games. His spell of 4-10 in the win over Kings XI Punjab was a joy to watch and he could create big problems for Dhawan with his bounce and sharp pace.
Chennai Super Kings take on Sunrisers Hyderabad in the final in Mumbai on Sunday in what is expected to be an epic contest. And since it is the last game of IPL 2018, it is also the final opportunity for you to make changes to your Fantasy team.
The teams that fought the first qualifier face off once again and it makes sense that the Fantasy team should sport a similar look to the one before the start of the first play-off game.
MS Dhoni and Rashid Khan are ideal candidates to be used as power players to double your points. One of the two, if not both, is almost guaranteed to bring his A game to the final and should give a big boost to your points tally.
The bowling attack of Lungi Ngidi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Siddarth Kaul should be part of most Fantasy teams.
The all-rounder category, however, is slightly tricky. Sunrisers all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan is an ever reliable option but the performance of Carlos Brathwaite against Kolkata, where he picked up two wickets in the final over, should put him in a great frame of mind for the final. Since the wicket in Mumbai has enough bounce, his batting might get a chance to really flourish.
The batting line-up should be a straightforward pick – Shikhar Dhawan, Kane Williamson, Ambati Rayudu and Suresh Raina.
If anything, the Indian bowling contingent can be tweaked depending on your gut feel. Is Deepak Chahar the better option over someone like Ravindra Jadeja? Or should you have both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Siddarth Kaul in you team? I would go with Jadeja and Bhuvi simply because they have the experience of playing the big match.